Saturday, November 17, 2007
1. Walking mindlessly: For this you want a beach which is flat at the waters edge, long and rimmed by low-energy sand bars so you can wade through the water, and not have to worry about the 1-in-9 waves that drenches you when you are a million miles away. Some of the best beaches I know for this are: Lighthouse Beach (south of Port Macquarie, NSW), Gerringong Beach (Gerringong, NSW).
2. Walking with a purpose: By this I mean you are primarily interested in walking as a task to perform. For this I like the walk around steeper, shorter beaches. The best example is Shelleys Beach at Port Macquarie. The walk south takes you to 3 beaches, though I thought the climb around the headlands to Port Macquarie city (north) was just as nice, and different, but not as safe since there is no beach-level road.
3. Swimming: For swimming, you want distant wave breaks for body surfing, no rips dragging you out to sea, sandy with no rocks or coral, no sand bars creating an uneven walking subsurface. I think most beaches have at least some areas which qualify, and on popular beaches they are defined by the flags. For safety reasons it makes sense to swim there.
4. Surfing: Dont profess to be a surfer, so no comment. I suspect anywhere between the Gold Coast (Qld) and Melbourne (VIC) is ok.
5. Windsurfing: I think for windsurfing you want a beach for stronger winds & bigger waves (as opposed to a reservoir), a large body of water to avoid speed boats, and good exposure, so flat topography for maximum wind power, but an enclosed area to reduce the amplitude of the waves. The best places I know for this are Botany Bay (South Sydney, NSW), Port Stephens (Nelson Bay, NSW), Myall Lakes (Mungo Brush, NSW) on the mid-North Coast, Merimbula and Sussex Inlet on the South Coast.
6. Exploring: What I look for when I want to explore is shortish beaches (because it gets boring if just sand), wave-cut platforms, wild seas, no people, no commercial development and rocky headlands, but not so rocky that you can't get around at low or high tide. Without a doubt the best beaches for this are on the South Coast. I wish I could tell you exactly where because I went there during my university days. Geologists love beaches for their rock outcrops. So we went on field trips to Ulladulla and other beaches around this area. There were wave-cut platforms at Wasp Head, etc...I forget now. But I remembered Wasp Head because there is a Wasp Head Formation...a marine siltstone I think. Really loved this experience. The surf was wild, I was climbing over huge boulders, copping alot of salt spray.
7. Sex: The idea of sex at the beach is maybe a guys wet dream, but having done this in NZ at night, I can tell you its not very practical. Yep you guessed it, apart from worried about some weirdo jumping me, there was the ever-presence of sand. Sorry I left my underwear on the beach. Wave-cut platforms are even less practical. So wake up everybody! I do however look fondly back on an experience at Boracay Island in the Philippines where I seduced a girl. I'm glad she refused my persistence. For some reason I was not concerned about safety that night.
I know Australians appreciate the beach. I know Asians dont know the amazing experience of being there becuase they dont have such nice beaches. Just to prove that I am not single-minded I would like to draw you attention to several non-Australian beaches which I thought were pretty special.
1. A black sand beach north of Auckland, New Zealand. This was an amazing experience for an Australian used to white sand beaches. Of course I went there on a Volcanic Geology field trip.
2. Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia: I went to a coal conference years ago in Bali. One of my fondest memories was sitting on a deck chair looking out to sea and feeling the breeze, and watching the salt spray drift in under the moon or lights of the resort. Its only safe enough to do that at night.
3. Beaches along the coast of Goa, India. India is a toilet as far as the places that I saw. But having gone to a steel conference many years ago at Goa, I had the good fortune to have conference dinner (sorry mostly drinks) at a different resort each of the 4 nights. They were really nice resorts overlooking the beach. The beaches were not so nice close up, as you can image the litter, but the water was clean.
Going to Asia its apparent that perhaps the most special aspect of the beach is the absence of litter. And ust how some cultures show litlte regard for cleanliness. I am reminded of two experiences.
1. Getting a train across China and seeing railway embankments used as open rubbish dumps (Nanning to Vietnam border)
2. Noticing that some Chinese tourists dumped some rubbish at the beach I was at, when I went to talk to them.
3. Seeing a group of 30-40 odd Vietnamese people harvesting shell fish for a party
I make no particular judgement about these people, just I'm concerned that beach management systems might not prevent damage to these beaches, because people have the freedom to do as they will. And we dont have much capacity to educate foreign tourists, and thats not to say that they are the only ones that need an education. Maybe I am contributing to the problem by informing people of these nice places. But then where is the value if they are not to be appreciated - no eyes cast upon them. And I wih to share their value, not keep it to myself.
Fortunately Australia has a low population. I dont accept the argument that Australia only has the capacity to take 20-40million people (now 20mil). Technology makes it possible to take 20 billion, but I'd like to think its possible to preserve these places. Fortunately I think the idea of having chidren is becoming less popular, but the appeal of keeping an economy strong by accepting a growing tide of immigrants is serving politicians - not the residents of Australia. Though I welcome everyone to Australia, I can see the folly in my thinking by encouraging them to do so. Property developers and development-friendly local governments are the other threat. I however dont wish to group my myself with greenies. First of all I probably save more energy in a day than any greenie, but I dont believe in human contribution to climate change. Second, I think there are tasteful ways to develop places. I dont enshrine 'all natural'. I think the Japanese have a very nice harmony in their village communities between town and river. Ok ok.. aside from the fact that the rivers are lined with concrete... yep some civil engineering company's wet dream. I think Jenolan Caves, NSW is a good example, as well as ski resorts in Australia.
1. Hokkaido - Actually this is one of the two places of significance I have not been in Japan. But I will get there. This area is highly regarded for its mountaineering during the summer.
2. Matsumoto - This alpine area is near Nagano, central Japan. Its easily accessed from Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto by express trains on the Chuo Line.
3. Minakami - This town is on the Tokyo-side of the ranges. This is a great area for hiking, canoeing and canyoning, and there are several commercial operators in the area. A few stations after Minakami on a local train, there is a station that hikers alight at, which is actuall underground. Not a normal phenomena in rural areas, but 'very Japanese'. Basically when you climb out of the station exit, you will have already started your climb to the summit.
4. Mt Fuji - Alot of westerners and Japanese seem to like the idea of climbing Mt Fuji. Not my style. They climb up at night so they can be there for the 'rising sun'. I frankly dont like the idea of being in a cattle herd, even if in the day time. You would probably want to get a bus there, as I believe you want to get 1/3 of the way up by road.
5. Okutama - This is a mountainous area on the westen fringe of the Kanto plains (Tokyo). You can get a train to Hachioji or Ome, and you get the Ome Line to Okutama Station (the end of the line). From there, you can get a bus to Okutama Reservoir. We walked back along the river on a very nice trail. This walk is particularly attractive during the Cherry Blossom season and maybe even nicer during the Autumn fall.
6. Chichibu - Not sure where people walk in Chichibu, but there is an express train there from Tokyo.
Its fair to say that these areas are popular because they are readily accessed from Tokyo, but having travelled around Japan alot by train and glanced over many online, free, downloadable 1:250,000 maps of Japan, it strikes me that there are many other nice areas for walking. Hopefully in time I will get those notes and photos on the internet.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Guided walks - Commercial
i. Milford Track - www.freshtracksnewzealand.com/nz_hiking_cycling/milford_track.php
ii. Coromandel Peninsula - www.puretrailsnewzealand.co.nz/walking-tours.htm
iii. New Zealand - www.hikingnewzealand.com
iv. New Zealand - www.activenewzealand.com
v. South Island - http://www.fat-tyre.co.nz/tours-top-half.htm
vi. Otago www.offtherails.co.nz/faqs.php#map – see map and www.centralotagorailtrail.co.nz vii. Barrier Island - www.barrieradventures.co.nz
Here is a list of the Top 101 Best Things to Do in New Zealand according to voters. I don’t think democracy achieves the best rankings – but its something to work with - www.aatravel.co.nz/101-must-dos-for-kiwis/index.php.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
One of the outdoor attractions of New Zealand is the walking trails. For further links on these far better than I could provide, visit the following sites:
7. www.wildwalks.co.nz - walks around Mt Aspiring National Park and Lake Wanaka
8. www.trailjourneys.co.nz/testimonials.html - Central Otago walking trails
10. www.trelawnb-b.co.nz/Walking_Trails.htm - walking trails in the Queenstown & Milford Sound regions
11. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g255104-c67330/New-Zealand:Bicycling.Walking.The.Rail.Trail.html - The Rail Trail for walking or biking
14. www.traildatabase.org - world database on hiking trails
16. www.rotoruanz.com/activities/activity_detail.asp?ID=434 - walks around the hot springs of Rotorua, North Island
For commercial hiking groups consider:
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
The best national park walks around Sydney usually encapsulate a mix of dry & wet forest, good shade and water views, and more than likely good swimming locations and shower facilities, as well as good access.
The 10 best walks around Sydney – they all require 0.5-1 day and you are encouraged to take food for a picnic and start out early. All trails are well marked, but for safety and the opportunity t do other things, its best to board your train at 9AM at the latest:
- Spit Bridge to Manly Trail (3-4hrs): This walk starts on the NE side of the Spit Bridge and follows Middle Cove around to Manly. The walk incorporates a range of flora including wet & dry sclerophyll forest and heath land, plus outstanding views of Sydney Harbour. Access to the start and finish is excellent, either by car or by bus from Wynyard (All Stop Buses to Northern Beaches), Chatswood or St Leonards Stations (both use 144 bus). Finish the walk with a beer lunch in Manly. There are plenty of opportunities for swimming.
- Sirius Cove Trail (2-3hrs): This walk starts at Sirius Cove and finished at Palm Cove. The walk incorporates a range of flora including wet & dry sclerophyll forest and heath land, plus outstanding views of Sydney Harbour. Access to the start and finish is by car (via Military Road, Raglan St) or Bus 247 from Wynyard Station. This walk can be completed as a circle, which could incorporate a stop for eating if the walk were extended to the north to Mosman. There are plenty of opportunities for swimming.
- Bobbin Head Trail (variable length): There are several walks in this area which cover the whole range of flora and bush settings from creek to estuary, gully to headland. Access is by car and bus from Turramurra Station on the North Shore line. Eat at Bobbin Head, Pittwater or Turramurra.
- Otford Trail (3-4hrs): This walk makes an excellent day walk if you include a visit to any of the South Coast train stations north of Wollongong. Alight the train at Otford Station, climb the hill to the road, then head north until (700m) you see a track to the beach. A longer walk takes you as far as Cronulla, but it requires overnight camping. You can swim at the beach, and there is a shop above the station for refreshments. Catch a country train from Central, Hurstville or Sutherland to Otford Station in the earliest convenience. Some trains do not stop. Each at the shop on the hill or each of the South Coast stations further south.
- Katoomba trails (3-4hrs): There are a number of good walking trails around Katoomba that take in the wonderful views, flora and watercourses in this scenic area. Catch a country train from Central to Katoomba Station in the earliest convenience. Eat at one of Katoomba’s pubs.
- Boudi National Park Trail: This trail is harder to visit than the others. Drive north of Sydney and take the turn off to Woy Woy, then MacMasters Beach. Before you reach MacMasters you will pass through the parking facilities for Boudi NP. This walk takes you along the coast and down to a beautiful unspoilt sheltered bay. Have a picnic lunch and dinner & beer at Terrigal at the Crown Plaza Hotel.
- Bondi Beach Trail (2-3hrs): This walk is probably the most popular because it adjoins a Sydney icon – Bondi Beach in the Eastern Suburbs. Catch a train to Bondi Junction, change to a Bondi Beach bus, then follow this coastal walk south to Crovelly, then catch a different bus back to Central Station. Better still – go the reverse route by getting the bus to Clovelly so you can
- Sydney Botanical Gardens Walk (2-3hrs): This is a great walk adjacent to the downtown part of Sydney. There is no formal trail or starting point, but you can start at Circular Quay, walk around to the Opera House, through the Botanical Gardens to the Domain and the Australian Art Gallery, then on to Hyde Park. You can finish off the walk with a lunch or dinner/drinks in Darlinghurst.
- Fitzroy Falls Trail (3hrs): There are wonderful walks around Fitzroy Falls, which encapsulates wet & dry sclerophyll forest along the Sydney Basin Escarpment. This area can only be accessed by car from Sydney. Follow the south coast freeway, and follow the signs to Picton, then Fitzroy Falls.
- Cowan-Hawksbury Trail: There are several walks around Cowan and Asquith Stations, just north of Hornsby Station, north of Sydney. This is the only area I have not walked in. I suspect the walks are longer and they are certainly more remote.
The walks have to be judged on their merits. Some are better equipped than others, some have more nature, others some cultural aspects, and some involve trips out of Sydney, whereas some might be 5minutes from your hotel. I have attempted to rank the walks in order of preference, but I think they are all good.